No excuses: Boatbuilding under quarantine

In keeping with the saying “when life gives you lemons . . . ,” we need to make the best of the forced COVID-19 quarantine. Besides, boating is all about switching to plan B or C, isn’t it?

For those of us lucky enough to be both economically and physically OK during these strange times, social distancing offers an opportunity to do the things we’ve been meaning to do. For some it’s learning Spanish or cleaning closets. For my husband and me, who are building a boat together, there are fewer temptations to lure us away from the boatshed.

One of the reasons my husband and I returned from our seven-year, 34,000-mile adventure around the Pacific was that our 31’, light displacement, cold-molded wooden boat was just too small. My husband, who is 6’1” and unable to sit or stand comfortably inside, complained that he would soon resemble Quasimodo if we didn’t stop living in such a cramped space. Plus, he’s dreamed of building a boat of his own design since he was a boy, and being a trained naval architect, he has the skills. Denying this dream would be like trying to stem the tide. And so, in 2013, we began building in our backyard workshop. As the years have dragged on, we’ve had moments of inspiration and others when there are other things we’d rather be doing – “we” being especially “me.”

During the COVID-19 quarantine, we no longer have any excuses. With boat building supplies stockpiled and few diversions, we have everything we need and plenty of time. And it’s perfect social distancing. When my husband finishes working online and closes the door to the spare bedroom (AKA “the office”) at day’s end, a quiet evening stretches before us. Now we make a quick dinner from the vast pantry of groceries that years of voyaging has encouraged me to keep on hand. Then we head out to the workshop. On weekends, race days pass — mere remnants on a calendar that now seems superfluous. Instead, we see an uninterrupted day of potential boatbuilding.

Over the past month we’ve built the dorade boxes for vents we bought more than a year ago and frames for hatches that have leaned against the workshop wall for more than two years. Most exciting of all was cutting out the holes for our port lights. We tick items off our list and grow ever closer to our goal. We still can’t answer the pressing question everyone asks — “When will the boat be finished?” — but the longer this pandemic quarantine remains in place, the closer we come to that moment. (If such a thing truly exists.) We just hope that cruising still seems like a good idea by the time we are ready for it.

Wendy Hinman
Banbridge Island, Wash.